When a beautiful, quality, bright orange carrier with purple satin handles was delivered to my door, I didn’t recognise the name – Atkinsons, London 1799.
Now, since I know my heritage brands, this flummoxed me. Was there a fabulous British heritage brand kicking around on Bond Street that somehow I’d missed? A bit like Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley? I called the PR to find out more and it turns out I’m not quite going gaga. Here was a real live heritage brand that had gone to the wall earlier in the last century but has been struck up again by the Perfume Holding group responsible for brands such as La Perla, Iceberg and John Galliano perfumes to name but a few.
This is a brand launch and a half – not razzle dazzling by opening stores (I wish) but by sneaking up on the consumer the Harrods route where Atkinsons 1799 was introduced in July. The most important factor about this launch is that the brand bears a heritage (pun intended) of over 200 years, most of it in hibernation, of typical English eccentricity and style with our cute bear chap as the emblem of the label.
In 1800, James Atkinson devised a typical English Eau de Cologne different from the Italianate colognes which were in very much vogue. Funny how times change but things remain the same as Atkinsons 1799 is hoping to re kindle the same intrigue and coup de grace that Atkinsons brought to court. So much so, that George IV and Beau Brummel were loyal Atkinsons devotees of the original Atkinsons in Gerard Street, where James Atkinson sorted the men from the boys by those brave enough to go past his live, chained bear at the entrance. Napolean, The Duke of Wellington, Admiral Nelson, Lady Hamilton and Sarah Bernhardt followed suit alongside most of the courts of Russia and Italy. The history reads like a true perfume fairy story but this is actual fact. Or is it? The press material read intentionally awkwardly and facts and fiction seem interwoven, presented in true early 19th Century style reading like a Gothic tale.
The original 24 Old Bond Street Atkinsons store has been described as ‘a mad mix of Neo-Gothic and Art Deco architecture crowned with a curious spire and richly decorated with gilding and painted heraldic motifs.’ Couple that with the fact that it was mentioned in Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and is still there underneath the swagger of Savatore Ferragamo’s frontage and we have the beginnings of a new story that features star perfumers such as Christine Nagel (Guerlain, Jo Malone, Dior, Armani Prive), Benoist Lapouza (YSL Live Jazz, Givenchy’s Eau Demoiselle) and Karine Debreuil (Gucci, Mugler, Guerlain, Ferragamo). If they don’t have the original site, they have heaps of veritable insight.
Colognes have been recreated including 24 Old Bond Street*, the cornerstone fragrance of the Atkinsons collection which even has a hint of whisky in the blend. (*Think a modernist clean Diptyche with a punchy pinch of trad Englishness; like wearing an old rainmac swilled with smells of Pall Mall clubs, on a biting cold yet sunny early Spring day in late May. (Yes, that British humour is intentional when speaking of our weather). Other Atkinsons fragrances include The Odd Fellow’s Bouquet which was inspired by a typical St James Gentleman’s Club and the original, a favourite of Lawrence of Arabia, Nuptial Bouquet, first formulated to celebrate Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, and Fashion Decree, inspired by Atkinsons late 19th century formula books and hailing from when patchouli leaves were packed in fabrics being shipped to protect them from insects.
The concept, the history and the fragrance foundations of Atkinsons 1799 all sound spiffingly right (even if the message is a little confused and artily conceived ‘abroad’, not in dear old Blighty) but what of the actual juice? More on that to come…
Atkinsons 1799 perfumes and bath collection is available in Harrods.